Oct 12, 2016 News
– Auditor General
The nation’s Audit Office is currently making significant moves to modernize the manner in which it conducts audits on Government’s spending of tax dollars on an annual basis.
This is according to the Audit Office which is headed by Auditor General, Deodat Sharma.
Kaieteur News understands that over the years, the office has implemented a number of units such as its forensic and fraud departments in an effort to strengthen and improve its services so that it can produce more effective reports.
A senior Audit officer explained that the Office intends to execute in the coming years, more performance audits on certain Government agencies. In addition to this, it was explained that the Audit Office is making moves to start conducting environmental and IT audits.
The officer said that moves are being made in this regard since that is how auditing of national accounts is being done at the international level.
He said that at first, there was emphasis on the three E’s – Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness- and two others have been added recently — Ethics and the Environment.
The shape and form the ethics audit will take is still being discussed but “we are swiftly moving towards the implementation of environmental audits.”
The Audit Officer said that it is important for Guyana to have modernized audit practices.
The audit officer noted that performance audits have been done thus far on the Old Age Pension and the Palms. He said that a few others are in the pipeline.
Regarding the performance audit report on the Palms, it was explained that, the Auditor General examines the extent to which a public entity is applying its resources and carrying out its activities economically, efficiently and effectively with due regard to effective internal management control.
The Auditor General said that the performance report on the Palms therefore sought to provide an assessment of the living conditions of the residents there.
Sharma said that the performance audit was conducted for the period January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008 and the report was laid in the National Assembly on December 3, 2009.
He said, “We conducted a follow-up audit on the Palms Institution for the period January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013. Subsequent audit checks were conducted in 2014 and 2015 to determine what action was taken by the Ministry of Social Protection and the Palms Administration, in implementing the recommendations in the report.”
The Auditor General stated that the audit report contained a total of 75 recommendations in the areas of accountability, responsibility and funding, health and well-being, food and dietary services, facilities and working environment and staff management.
Sharma indicated that the recommendations were designed to strengthen financial accountability and oversight, improve the health and well-being of the residents and address staffing issues.
He said that up to the time of reporting, only 46 (62%) of the 75 recommendations were fully implemented, while 16 (21%) were partially implemented, and 13 (17%) were not implemented.
“We expect the Ministry and the Palms Administration Institution will actively pursue the recommendations made in our report since 2008 with a view of implementing those that were not implemented and to continue working on fully implementing those that were partially implemented in a timely manner,” the Auditor General.
Sharma said that there were some worrying areas which are still to be addressed.
He said that the Palms did not have the required number of qualified and trained combination of staff and a comprehensive review of the Institutions’ staff strength was not done in an effort to identify staffing needs and recruit staff in order to rectify the situation.
In comparison with World Health Organization (WHO) standard, which requires a ratio of one nurse to four patients, he said that the ratio at the Palms stood at one nurse to nine residents. The Auditor General said that this is inadequate and can impair the Institution’s ability to effectively care for each resident and facilitate recreational activities, which require nursing supervision.
Furthermore, Sharma said that assistance was not sought from the Ministry of Public Health to have a Dietician/Nutritionist attached to the Palms to assess the dietary needs of residents, nor was the staff of the Palms trained by a Nutritionist in providing nutritional care for residents. As a result, Sharma said that diets supplied to residents may lack the required nutritional value.
He said, too, that there was no emergency policy document established. Staff and residents of the Palms were still not trained in emergency preparedness. Furthermore, the Auditor General asserted that there were still no alarms, buzzers or bells in wards to alert the occupants in the event of an emergency.
Sharma believes that this situation would result in a tragedy should an emergency occur, as residents will take uncoordinated action. Additionally, Sharma said that bedridden residents are at risk of being left unattended.
He said that it should be reiterated that the recommendations were made to correct identified deficiencies and improve operations.
Given the significance of the recommendations, particularly in the areas of Health and Well-Being, Food and Dietary and Facilities and Working Environment, which directly impacted the quality of life of the residents and their overall well-being, Sharma said it is important that the Ministry and the Palms Administration fully implement those recommendations on a priority basis to address the issues raised in the audit report.
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